Buddy and tennis

When Buddy was a wee toddler, we encouraged him to be active and got him toy balls to play with. He became rather proficient at kicking the ball, compared to kids his age, before he even turned 2. We thought he might have a talent in football as he showed pretty good eye-hand coordination, and he could even throw the ball in the air and kick it. (See my earlier post Buddy and the ball dated 3 April 2014.) I actually mulled the thought that he might have a chance at soccer despite the crappy standards in Singapore.

2014 was the year the World Cup was held in Brazil, and my father-in-law bought a lot of toy balls for Buddy when he was vacationing in the US, including the orange World Cup ball. Like many parents, I had secret dream of grandiose that Buddy might be able to go to soccer school, perhaps he might even be talent spotted. In fact, subsequently, Buddy also showed he could shoot hoops, and needless to say, Jeremy Lin came to mind. We even got a small basketball hoop for him to play at home. (Yes I know I was in la la land then.) Next thing I knew, the interest in football and even basketball fizzled out and the dream popped!

Buddy continued to be active but did not show sustained interest in any particular sport. When we took him to the Decathlon shop, he went from football to basketball to boxing and then to Table Tennis. We decided that he was likely too young to decide what sport he really liked, and we probably had to wait till he goes to primary school to decide. Maybe he might go into track and field since he seemed to like running. Basically, lots of maybe this, maybe that, and I promptly dropped the idea of him being an athlete, let alone going to a sports school. Still, whenever I took him to the playground behind our apartment, we would pass by the tennis courts and he would be curious about the players and what they were doing.

Last year, after Buddy turned 5, he told us that he wanted to learn tennis. It was a pleasant surprise for my husband because he used to play for college tennis. So instead of engaging a coach, my husband decided to take up the mantle. He is one who doesn’t believe in half measures, and he started doing research on the various training methods. (After all, what he learned in the past is outdated, and besides he didn’t actually have proper training when he was younger.)

I became a skeptic this time; I thought it was one of his 5~minute passion, and didn’t think it was last though my husband was very enthusiastic. He read up on the lauded Spanish method (which produced the  great Rafael Nadal); a book written by Brad Gilbert (a master tennis strategist), biographies from the father of the Williams sisters and from Maria Sharapova; watched French and Japanese tennis videos on YouTube (never mind that he doesn’t understand what the hell was being said but looking at the actions was good enough), as well as videos from American tennis coaches. He then consolidated the learning and devised his own for Buddy.

First and foremost, he started Buddy with the slow red ball, following the Spanish’s training method for the beginners (though in their case they use the clay court which is widely available everywhere, and clay slows the ball down). Because the ball travels slower, there is a lower bounce and doesn’t hurt even when it hits the young player. Besides the ball is larger than the regular yellow ball, and being red, it is is easier to spot and hit. This is in contrast to what we notice among many kids learning tennis here. They are given the yellow ball for training, which is too fast and too much bounce, making it hard for them to learn the proper technique and to control the ball.

For his training, Buddy has to do footwork drills and learns to swivel his hips with a basketball (which allows him to use the stronger leg muscles to power the racket swing instead of the arm), as well as hitting against the wall. (I found out from him that many tennis stars did just that when they were young.) On top of this, there are the hand-fed top spin and drive volley drills. As for my involvement (if any), I’m the official videographer. I can hardly hit the ball even if my life depends on it. But Buddy likes to rally with me since he can beat me easily.

The drill

The important practice of hitting against the wall, which is required at every lesson.

He started not being very proficient with the ball. A few months later, he was able to rally albeit with double-bounce sometimes.

Buddy showing he can serve.

It has been a year since Buddy started, and his interest is going strong. (Amazing!) Now, he has lessons at least twice a week, and each time it is a 2-hour session. Even when he is not on the court, on some days he would hit against the wall at our patio. What he enjoys most is the rally with papa at the end of each training. He even got us to buy a yellow bandanna for him, like the one Nadal wore during the clay court tournaments.

Buddy is so into tennis that he sometimes practices his stroke even without the racket in hand. He even thought that table tennis is similar to tennis, and he will use the table tennis racket and ball to hit against the wall instead. Whenever we are at Decathlon, he goes straight for the table tennis  table instead of the basketball or football sections. It’s pretty funny to see him plays table tennis using tennis strokes. But it does work sometimes.

My husband is mighty pleased that Buddy’s skill is continually improving. Even though he has told me a couple of times that it is very difficult to become a professional tennis player (most can’t even make money out of it), I bet he secretly hopes Buddy is good enough to compete. After all, why would he joke, “mama, when Buddy plays at Wimbledon in future, you’ve better have makeup on! Otherwise, you might get mistaken for the tea lady!”

Toughening Buddy up

A month ago, my husband said to me, "Buddy has to learn judo!" It turned out Buddy was bullied again by a classmate who is taller and bigger than him.

Buddy asked the boy if he could play with his spider man toy at the playground. In response, the bully said no and hit Buddy on the chest. Needless to say, Buddy wailed.

I had mentioned "again", because the bully had previously pushed Buddy's head against a metal railing, and even attempted to trip him at the playground. We had complained to the teachers and daycare supervisor, and even told the boy's parents about the incidents. The boy had been warned and told not to touch Buddy. Still, even though we protect Buddy as much as we can now, we also realized he has to toughen up and learn to protect himself for the future.

My husband had mull of sending Buddy to judo class for quite some time, and this incident cemented his decision. To him, judo is the most practical martial art, compared to Tae Kwon Do or Karate, because the practitioner or judoka learns how to fall without serious injury, and to grapple with his/her opponent and sweep the person off the feet. In contrast, kicking or punching is not as practical as what is depicted in movies or TV since during a fight, the close contact wouldn't give you the chance to do so. Besides, in Singapore, when you kick or punch another person (even in self defence), you are also liable under the law. (By the way, this is pertaining to the Singapore context where possession of guns is illegal and the punishment is mandatory death sentence. And anyone caught possessing a weapon like a knife also faces serious consequence, especially if another person is injured or killed as a result.)

My husband also feels that Buddy lacks situational awareness, and practising judo will improve that. He will learn to be alert of the people or kids around him and know how to avoid any possible malicious contact.

We signed Buddy up with a Judo dojo near our home, which offers classes for children aged 4 to 12. The instructor, known as Sensei, is a young lady who is very firm. There is no soft touch here, and you might even find her fierce. But I don't blame her because teaching kids is like herding cats. It can drive anyone up the wall, especially when you have to handle different types of kids.

It's been a month since Buddy started and as expected, there were a couple of crying incidents. Like when the instructor told him firmly that when he falls, he should get up immediately. (Very practical advice because you don't want anyone to fall on top of you.) Buddy didn't take it well as he thought it was a scolding from the instructor, and he got upset. And last Saturday, he suffered his first sport injury when, during a grappling session, he hurt his foot, and later he forgot to do break-fall and knocked his head against the hard tatami floor.

Thank God, despite the teary episodes, Buddy remains enthusiastic about Judo and enjoys the lessons. He knows that he has to build up his strength and learns to face up to bullies. As we comforted him, we also told him to be mindful of his opponents and not be deterred by the pain because he will get stronger. Indeed, even for the kids, they get to practice grappling with each other, which is very good exercise for them.

Observing the kids in class has been a pretty entertaining experience for us as well. There are a couple of kids who stand out from the rest in particular, not because of their skills but for their non-Judo antics. There is a young boy, either sane age or a year older than Buddy, who seems to live in a different zone. He fidgets a lot, likes to look at himself at the mirrors, and basically does his own things. He first caught our attention at Buddy's first lesson, when he told Sensei that his intestines hurt as he was looking for a way out of the practice. My husband couldn't help but snickered, while I was "amazed" he could pinpoint the exact area of the pain. My husband then gave him the nickname "Mr Intestines".

Mr I is also rather hyperactive. Before the start of the lesson a couple of weeks ago, we found him running round and round the dojo like a dog chasing its tail. He kicked aside a water bottle on the tatami mat as he ran like it was a piece of garbage. An older girl in yellow belt asked the Sensei, "Did he have too much sugar this morning?" Well, I wasn't sure what he had, but if he did, it looked like he had a barrel of it. During the last lesson, he was given time-out a couple of times because he was so lost in his own world.

The other notable kid is the exact opposite of Mr I in terms of behaviour. He mozzie around like he has all the time in the world, so much so that my husband nicknamed him "slow loris" or just "loris". But, like Mr I, he also likes to gaze at himself in the mirrors. (There must be something fascinating about looking at your reflection!) Not to say Buddy is fully attentive, because at the end of the 1-hour lesson, his attention will start to waver.

We learned that Loris has been learning Judo for 6 months, after Sensei told him off for not knowing a basic move. Maybe that is why he is still a white belt judoka. So is Mr I, whose judogi looks pretty well-worn. The rest of the kids have colored belts, with 2 French brothers leading the pack with green belts. They do look pretty serious when they spar and grapple. Despite their skinny frames, they have the "don't mess with me" air about them.

There are quite a number of girls learning Judo in both children and adult classes. I think the skills are very handy for the fairer sex, because even though girls are generally weaker than guys, the practicality of Judo allows some form of level playing field unless the guy is also a judoka.

Hopefully, Buddy will continue his interest in Judo and improve on the techniques. Meanwhile, I am still considering when to send him for swimming class, which he is now interested in.

Buddy and his homemade toys 

Does Buddy have a lot of toys? Yes and no. Instead of buying different types of toy for him, I focused on getting the same of certain types. Like I got him quite a lot of Thomas & Friends trains a couple of years back, as well as dinosaur models. But it was also because Buddy was only interested in both, unlike many other kids who have toy guns, transformers, remote control cars, and all the fancy whiz bangs produced by the toy industry.

However, last year, Buddy suddenly developed an interest in the Teenaga Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT), and that was when he lost interest in trains ever since. Lucky for the dinos, he is starting to regain his interest after a long hiatus. I am ready to sell or give away the trains and tracks, but not the models. I did my research to get the good stuff, and they are certainly not some ridiculous fake-looking figures! 

Back to the TMNT, I had initially bought him the Leonardo set comprising of the eye mask, sword and Sirikans since he wanted to be Leo.

But, soon after, he started to switch roles to the other Turtles. Instead of getting the rest of the sets, my husband decided to make the weapons for him like the samurai sword, staff and Sais (below). The Sais were made from papers with chopsticks inside to give it structure, and lots of transparent tape, whereas the staff was made from cardboard paper.

We were not sure if we could make the nunchucks, and I even checked out Etsy for something safe for him, but they were going for more than USD30 excluding shipping cost. Eventually my husband had an idea; he used  Buddy’s socks stuffed with cotton balls. That turned out to be rather ingenious!

Kids being kids, they don’t stay interested in any one thing for long. Buddy discovered the Avengers, starting with Captain America. He wanted the shield, and again I wanted to take the short cut and thought of getting one from Toys R Us. Then I realized that we could get it made using paper plate. Basically we only had to color the design on the underside. However the paper was not durable; so we switched to disposable plastic plate. To reinforce the structure, my husband taped it up, and he made a pair of handles on the other side using masking tape.

The other Avenger hero that Buddy wanted to emulate was Thor. By now, he likes the homemade toys so much that he wanted us to make him a hammer. We were like, “how in the world are we gonna make a kiddy hammer?” I told him I would search for a toy hammer instead but he refused, and insisted we make one for him. My husband wrecked his brain, and finally got the idea to use the trusty sock and cotton balls again. So here we have a safe hammer with handle just like Thor’s.

Buddy wanted to dress up like Thor as well, and so we used the swaddle cloth for the cape. Though he later wanted something in red because that’s the color of Thor’s cape. I gave him my red scarf which he happily accepted. Now, my numerous scarves, which I haven’t used for donkey years, are put into good use for Buddy’s play acting. 

My husband even made him the Thor’s helmet, though, admittedly it doesn’t look like one but Buddy was happy with it.

Another Avenger character that Buddy liked a lot was Clinton, the archer. When the request for bow and arrows came, we were stumped.   My husband decided to tie a piece of string to an old staff to make it into a bow, but arrows? That is a whole new ball game. Lucky for us, my parents found a set of toy bow and arrows for him. I can tell you, strangely, they are as elusive as the snow leopard.

Buddy is also a fan of Marvel hero, the Hulk, and thank God Hulk doesn’t have any weapon. But Buddy insists on wearing green tops and blue pants, because those are Hulk’s colors. (Don’t ask me why.)

So now, is Buddy still big on Avengers? Nope! He has moved on to Guardians of the Galaxy. He loves that movie so much that I’ve lost count of the number of times he has seen it. He is also a fan of Drax, because he is similar to Hulk. He wanted the knives that Drax has, and, with weapon making experience under his belt, my husband made a pair for him.

Yes, I do save a lot of money on toys. 

A Sentosa staycation

We didn’t plan for an overseas trip this year, instead we decided on a staycation at the last minute. I thought it would be a good idea to go to Sentosa when I could get a chance to hunt rare pokemons. My husband agreed, though for a different reason: Kidzania is at Sentosa. In case you’re wondering, it is a theme park where kids get to try out various jobs and having fun while at it (until they grow up and face the real world). We showed Buddy the promo video of the huge indoor park, and after seeing kids played Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at the movie theatre located onsite, he was totally hooked. (Yes, Buddy is back to TMNT.)

I looked around the accommodation options at Sentosa and found that Amara Sanctuary
Resort has a staycation package for Kidzania. On the map, the hotel looks to be the closest to the site. Best of all, the package comes with breakfast and the hotel has king-size bed option. So I booked for a one-night stay at S$435.

My husband spent time studying the layout at Kidzania as well as the different job stations, and he then announced that we should get to the hotel early to collect the entry tickets and enter Kidzanja when it opens at 10AM. It turns out that certain stations like the pilot training academy, are extremely popular and wait time at the line is usually an hour or longer. He wanted Buddy to go for that, and so we had to be there when the park opened to avoid the long wait.

Well, like Murphy’s law, things don’t always go as planned. In fact, it didn’t get off to a good start when we arrived at Sentosa. In the confirmation letter from Amara Sanctuary, it stated that we had to go to a manned gantry to show the hotel confirmation letter to get free entry. Being our first time driving through the Sentosa gantry, we were a little confused and we couldn’t stop to look for signage because there were cars behind us. So we approached the one right in front of our path, and, unfortunately, it turned out to be an automated entry and the $6 entry fee was deducted from the cash card. When we informed the reception staff, we were told we should go to gantry 1 or 2. Well then, why wasn’t it stated clearly in the letter?

We indicated our unhappiness with the ambiguous information to the hotel staff during check in, but we couldn’t wait for a resolution. We had to get into Kidzania once it opened, remember. And it was then, we found out, the theme park isn’t as close to the hotel as it looks on the map. The hotel is actually located at the back of Kidzania, and of course there is no  entry there. We were told to walk to the nearest Inbiah station to take the monorail to Beach station where Kidzania is.  It was a 5-minute walk, not far to be honest, but when we were rushing for time, it started to dawn on us that Amara Sanctuary doesn’t have such a good location. Worst, for parents with strollers or disabled on wheelchairs, it’s really a bloody hassle because of the elevated pavement going to the station.  It is another 5 minutes’ walk from the Beach station to Kidzania. So, needless to say, we didn’t reach Kidzania at 10.00AM.

Finally we’re here! Check out the life-size plane sticking out from the glass window!

Once inside, there was already a long line of people! Thank God we had got tickets in advance! However, the relief was short-lived. We were told to join the queue, to get the tags and a free bag for Buddy. Turned out most people had bought advance tickets anyway. Grrr……

We went straight to the pilot training academy and, perhaps unsurprisingly, the first session was filled. Next one was at 11.30AM. So we decided to get Buddy his kidzania passport first. A kid receives a stamp on the passport when he participates at any job station.

When I stepped into the humongous 2-storey indoor playground, I was reminded of Caesar’s Palace at Las Vegas. It must be the picture of the sky on the ceiling.  Since Kidzania provides job-playing fun for kids, it’s a chance to make extra cash by getting companies to set up shops for product endorsement. And so we have the likes of MayBank, KFC and Mt Elizabeth Hospital, etc, hoping to make an impression on their future customers. Like the aforementioned plane, it was donated by Qatar Airlines in case you didn’t notice.

There is even an adventure training school for kids to climb walls. Too bad, Buddy is below the minimum height of 1.3m.

There was a recruitment at the clockwork tower for performers, and we tried to get buddy to go for it. But when he realized I couldn’t be next to him because parents are not allowed inside the station/shop, he cried and wanted to get out. That was when I got a little worried, wondering if he was going to be clingy and not participating in any activities at all. We looked around, and my husband asked him if he wanted to learn to make pizza at Pizza Hut, and he said yes. Ok, since he likes pizza, perhaps he would be willing to do it on his own?

Buddy and I joined the line for the pizza session while my husband continued to scope out Kidzania. On the first storey, he spotted the movie theatre! And guess what was screening?

I asked Buddy if he wanted to go for TMNT or pizza; no prize for guessing his preference. Thus, Buddy went for his first audition at the Nickelodeon acting academy!

When the director started assigning the roles (the kids are supposed to close their eyes and not know what they would get), my husband and I were holding our breath and keeping our fingers and toes crossed for Buddy. Two girls were given the turtle costumes, then an older boy. Will Buddy get the last one? Yes, he got to play Donatello! My husband and I cheered loudly. (I know we are acting like helicopter parents.) But when you have a little guy who needs a little boost of confidence, this is something to celebrate. I mean, he’s the smallest child in the group!

And…. we have the turtles on stage!

The end, when everyone took a bow.

The acting academy also provided costume parade for kids. They really look adorable dressed up in Peranakan attires while swaying to the upbeat Malay songs.

Buddy’s next “job” was being a soccer player. This is one of the popular stations and the kids had a lot of fun. Unfortunately, his team lost to the other side.

We could only manage 3 stations despite staying almost the whole day. The problem is that the long wait time for each session. Buddy’s last  role was learning to make ice cream at the Paddle Pop shop.

Looking at Buddy in his job plays, it dawned on us that he is still a very small boy.  Since the minimum participating age for kids at Kidzania is 4 years old, naturally he is one of the youngest kids around.  But he performed very well in all the roles, waiting patiently on his own in the line with older kids, listening closely to instructions, and most importantly, having fun. So it turned out my initial fear was unfounded after all.

And finally, for his reward, Buddy got an ice cream.

Buddy also learnt to open a bank account and deposit money earned into it.

It was a hard time getting Buddy to leave Kidzania, and we had to promise him a return. For the next trip, we are determined to get a session for the pilot training and the firestation where kids  get to ride on a fire truck and put out fire! (Not real of course.)

The tickets for Kidzania are not cheap: S$60 for a kid and S$30 for each adult. Which is why it’s best to stay for the whole day, especially since once you leave the premise, you cannot return without getting another ticket. This also means you have to get your meals onsite, and food options are not great since mostly fast food and snacks are available, not exactly healthy stuff. Considering this is an occasional sinful eat, we can live with that, unless you want to BYO.

Because of the long hours spent at Kidzania, it’s actually a good idea to have a staycation at Sentosa when you can spend time exploring other attractions for kids as well. Like we stumbled upon Port of Lost Wonders, a water playground, the next morning. My husband spotted a running track and wanted to go for a run. We had to wait for him somewhere and decided to check out PoLW which is next to it. I had initially thought it was some playground with water canon, and didn’t expect it to be a full-fledge water play. In order for both Buddy and I to enter, we had to get swim wear at the shop.

Buddy had so much fun that he didn’t want to get out of the water for lunch when papa returned. In fact, he wanted to learn swimming, something he didn’t want to do when we had previously broached the subject. Too bad I couldn’t take any pictures as I had to be in the water with him. So, do bring your kids to PoLW which I’m very sure they will enjoy. Besides, the tickets are not expensive: I only paid S$10 for both Buddy and myself.

When it comes to accommodation, I cannot recommend Amara Sanctuary. Sure, we were upgraded to a bigger premier room when we checked in, and it is indeed pretty spacious as you can see from the picture below.

However, there is one phrase that rings true all the time: there is no such thing as a free lunch. One of the first things I noticed was that the water flow wasn’t good in the wash basin, but I could deal with that. However, soon after,  my husband noticed a background noise that sounded like a pump. It didn’t seem like coming from the aircon vent but somewhere above the ceiling. He called the front desk about it but no response seemed to be forthcoming and so I went out to investigate.

I suspected there was some engine located on the roof, and our room, situated on the 4th/highest level and right smack in the middle of the corridor, was below it. I told the hotel manager that we needed a change of room to level one which was not affected by the noise. She said all rooms were occupied at that level and she would look at other rooms for me. But first thing, she wanted to check out for herself the situation. When I saw her again, she was with a technician who admitted that there was a pump on the roof and that he had switched it off and activated another pump instead. The noise went away as expected and we thought everything should be fine and continued with our stay.

That night, after we returned from dinner, the water flow in the bathroom sink was basically still, and the aircon didn’t seem to be working well. Next thing we knew, the pump sound came on. (Some guest must have complained about the poor flow and aircon and so the hotel had no choice but to switch on the pump.) This time, we insisted on a change of room. We were given a deluxe room (which is smaller) on the 3rd level, but at least we didn’t have to suffer sleepless night.

The other thing which we realized during our stay is the many PRC tourists at the hotel. No offense, but when there is a proliferations of them the service standard tends to deteriorate. It is very apparent in the breakfast buffet spread, which consists of mostly carb and hardly any meat. It was one of the worst breakfasts I’ve ever had, and reminded me of the one at Disneyland Resort Hotel in Hong Kong where the abovementioned tourists made up more than 50% of the clientele. Unfortunately, there is no way we could have known this before scoping out the hotel first. So we decided to check out Le Meridien  Hotel’s guests at the lobby, and there is a good mix of international clientele. The place also seems rather genteel and plus the good location, it’ll be our choice for our next staycation at Sentosa.

However, one thing I have to give to Amara Sanctuary is that the hotel staff did acknowledge that it was their fault that clear instructions were not provided in the letter for entry into Sentosa. The fee couldn’t be reimbursed to us but we were offered a late check-out the next day, which we accepted. This had allowed us to discover PoLW. So, all in all, I must say it was still quite a fun experience, especially for Buddy. And having a staycation is great for a short break.

Buddy, don’t grow up so fast!

It has been a few weeks since my last post. I have been pretty busy with work and Buddy was also sick, which, unfortunately, didn’t leave me time for the blog. Needless to say, I haven’t been spending much time following up on new cheongsam designs either. So, this post is dedicated to Buddy instead.

Looking at past pictures of Buddy, it’s amazing how fast he has grown. He’s a meter in height now, though I wish he is slightly taller. But my husband told me he’s still a toddler and his development has a long way to go. Despite being a four-year-old, Buddy sometimes wants us to pamper him like a baby. He still wants my husband to carry him if he can get away with it, especially when we take him on the escalators. I don’t know why, but Buddy is afraid of stepping on them, maybe he’s scared he would trip and fall. He wails when we try to insist he rides the escalator on his own, so we end up having to carry him.

Buddy does not have a “cowabunga” personality, in the sense that, outside the comfortable confine of home, he avoids trying something that might risk a fall, like climbing up a rope ladder at the playground. Though this doesn’t mean he’s timid. He is not afraid to push back when other kids try to take his place or his playthings, or refuse to give way to him.  He will stand his ground and loudly tell the other kid off, “Hey, this is mine!” Sometimes I have to tell him to share the toys or play area in the toy store, because he can be a little too assertive. I guess we had taught him too well. You see, when he was like two years old, he was pushed around by other older kids or had his toys taken away from him and he would wail.  So we told him to stand his ground by loudly telling the other kids, “No, this is mine!”, and we even acted out the role play for him  to learn.

Buddy loves to go to the toy stores, more so than playgrounds, and in fact his favorite hang-out is The Better Toystore. Whenever we take him out, he will ask to go there to play. We are  there so often that I have to buy something from the store, from time to time,  else it gets a little embarrassing for us.  During those times when he doesn’t get a chance to go to a toystore, we will tell him that he has one at home. And it’s the best toystore since there’re no other kids around to fight for space  or toys.

Talking about toys, Buddy’s love for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) is over. At least for now.  He’s not even interested in wearing the T-shirts or pajamas. At least though, he’s now back to wearing the clothes bought pre-TMNT, mostly dino T’s. He switched his attention to “Underdog” about a month ago; this is a 2007 movie which I think most people probably have not heard of (at least I didn’t until we saw it on cable). It’s about a beagle which found itself possessing superpower after an accident in a lab.


Buddy loved the protagonist, and he wanted to be “Underdog”! And of course, the superdoggie must have a cape. He didn’t want the TMNT capes with the turtle shells on them (there are two pajamas with removable capes), and instead he asked for the swaddle cloth as the cape.

I think Buddy’s liking for the super beagle may have stemmed from his doggie cushion, which has a picture of a Jack Russell Terrier on the casing. We bought it for him before he was two, from a shop that sold animal-themed products. He absolutely loves the JRT , which is called “doggie” (duh!), and it goes to bed with him every night, and even goes out with him sometimes. It’s like a pet dog to him. I cannot imagine the day when the cushion casing is torn because I only have one extra, and the shop has since closed. I might try to get another one with a cute doggie picture and pray he accepts it. But he will definitely wail like a banshee when he doesn’t have “doggie” with him when he sleeps.

Anyway, now that Buddy has moved away from TMNT, he is back to playing with his trains and occasionally, the dinos. And he’s also renewed his interest in Godzilla, which he was devoted to before his attention was taken over by TMNT. So you see, kids being kids, their interests change all the time. Probably in a few months’ time, he will return to the turtles.

Still, despite imagining himself as a super hero, Buddy is afraid of monster, specifically the insect monster in the 2014 Godzilla movie. Admittedly, my husband and I are at fault for allowing him to watch it, as well as “Jurassic World”. Though he didn’t show any anxiety during the shows, he becomes anxious during bed time, after I switch off the light. He tells me almost every night, “Mama, I’m scared of monster.” After some probing, he revealed it was the insect monster. Even though I tried telling him it is not real, he cannot grasp the reality. I guess, being a kid, he has a fertile imagination and the monster probably takes on a larger than life image in his mind. Even when I told him that I was not afraid of it and I would beat the crap out of the monster, he said, “it’s very, very big, with sharp teeth!” So now I tell him that Godzilla will protect us. (Lately, Buddy has also shown an interest in the Power Rangers, probably learned about them from the other kids in school since he doesn’t watch any children programs on TV. My husband assures him that the Power Rangers are also helping us to fight the monster, and he doesn’t have to worry.) So, no more scary movies for Buddy, only kiddy-friendly ones!

Over the past 2 nights, Buddy also told me he didn’t like the dinos, and that he didn’t like the T Rex and Carnotaurus. (The dino movie!) When he was watching “Jurassic World”, I was a bit worried it was too violent for him, but he said, “it’s just a movie!” Turns out, perhaps, his imagination is getting the better of him. He might have been spooked by the fight between the T-Rex and the Carnotaurus-like mutant in the show climax. (By the way, the monster in the movie is not a T-Rex mutant as claimed in the storyline, it actually looks more like a Carnataurus. Even Buddy knows that. And the image of the velociraptors is totally wrong, they look like Coelophysis instead. The movie producers have absolutely no idea what the dinos look like!)

But Buddy still has a deep interest in dinos, and he is constantly asking for dino books. Like the expanding train members, he has a growing dino family. Though he has a preference for the herbivores now, as the carnivorous models look rather intimidating especially since they are pretty life-like. Thanks to Buddy, I have also gained much knowledge of the dinos from the books I read to him. Because of this, I like to ask the producers of the dino movies why use “Jurassic” name, when many of the prominent dinos like T Rex, Stegosaurus and Triceratops only existed in the late Cretaceous period? (See, I know my dino stuff!)

Alright, enough of dissing the dino movies, back to Buddy. He does whine about going to school (daycare) at times, but luckily he doesn’t protest as much now. We still use the star reward system to get him to do things. Like when he quickly put on his shoes in the morning (as quick as a young kid can get, since getting a toddler to do something is like herding a cat), or when he eats his vegetables, he gets a star. Lately, he is able to get over his fear of public performance and to stand before a crowd. The first time was more than two months ago, when his class performed before the parents, as part of the speech and drama class performance. And last Saturday, he and some of his friends participated in a poetry recitation competition. We were really proud of him that he was able to stand before a big crowd. We gave him a star for his bravery.

Buddy is four!

How time flies in the blink of an eye!  Some friends still remember Buddy as a chubby baby, and indeed he was a mini sumo wrestler.

But that is in the past, because since he was two, he has been steadily losing the blubber. In fact he is rather lean now, thanks to all the jumping, rolling, and play-fighting. To be honest, I don’t know where he gets all the energy from. I get tired just from looking at him moving non-stop!

Our couch is Buddy’s favorite part of the home because of its multi-uses. It acts as a trampoline, the top of a tall building where he can jump off ala TMNT move, the scene of many fights, and, previously, together with the cushions, the island of Sodor for Thomas Train and friends.

Since Buddy was a baby, my husband had said that there are three important development areas for a child: mental, physical and morals. So far, we didn’t have to do much on the physical aspect because Buddy has been pretty active. He used to played balls and rode the scooter when he was younger, though, unfortunately, he has since stopped. (We had a pipe dream that he might turn out to be a good footballer since he had the ability to kick the ball at a very young age, but it looks almost certain the dream has been flushed down the drain.)

Instead, Buddy is most happy play acting as one of the ninja turtles fighting Shredder. My husband made him a pair of Sais at his request, when he wanted to be Raphael.

When the first paper sword went kaputt, Buddy wanted another in black. He also asked for a purple scabbard because that is Donatello’s color. He even turned it into a staff by removing the scabbard.

We didn’t make a nunchuck for him though, and I was wondering whether to get one. But it turns out he had found a creative solution: socks, since they can twist and turn like nunchucks. We encourage him, since that saved us  from getting new toys and besides, socks don’t hurt.

Since Buddy’s love affair with TMNT started, he has lost interest in the trains though he still plays with his dinosaurs sometimes.  Even the toy cars are hardly played with. But we have noticed he goes through phases with his toys. He started with trains before moving to dinosaurs, and then back to trains, and now to TMNT. So, he has a rather narrow range of toys since he is specific of his likes even when he was younger.

When it comes to mental development, my husband is very much involved in this because he places a lot of emphasis on thinking skill. He believes strongly in building Buddy’s foundation before his formal education begins in a couple of years’time.

Previously, Buddy worked on jigsaw puzzles and simple Learning Journey games. During the past year, we discovered Smart Games, a company that developed logic games for toddlers and adults. We started Buddy on Three Little Piggies before he proceeded to the rest like Camelot Jr and Smart Car, etc. So far, he is enjoying  these games and I guess that is a good sign.

As for Buddy’s moral / character development, we try to give him as much positive reactions as possible, as well as explain the good and bad behaviours to him. But he doesn’t seem to fully grasp what we said to him. Like when he does something wrong and I explain to him on why he has to apologize, he would do it but he cries after that. He doesn’t like to say sorry; which I guess it’s normal human nature?

He has been a strong-willed child as long as I can remember. He wants things to be done his way. For instance, when I notice he didn’t button his pyjamas top correctly, he becomes upset if I redo it for him. And he is particular about his pillow case. He is ok with pictures of safari animals or penguins, but not the one with sheep. Same goes for the bath tub non-slip mat from IKEA. Buddy has been using this blue-coloured curvy mat all this time and it’s become a little ratty. Unfortunately IKEA has stopped stocking it. I tried to explain to Buddy that we have to get a different one, but he insisted it has to be the same, and refused to accept the available crocodile design. I will have to take him shopping, and hopefully he will be able to choose one that he will use.

It’s the same with the books that I read to him. I usually borrow at least 15 books at the library each time. After going through the books once, Buddy would have decided which books he likes and want me to re-read to him. He doesn’t even mind listening to the same story every night after that. Like this TMNT book “Pizza Party”, this is a renewal loan, and he has been listening to the story for at least 4 weeks! But he loves it, and many times he will act out the story. So, basically, I have to ask for his opinions before getting most things for him.

I guess Buddy inherited his quirks from me or my husband. Like us, he is slow to warm up to others. He is very chatty and asks lots of “why” questions when he is alone with us, and is also communicative with people he is comfortable with, like his class teachers and classmates. (Though, like me, Buddy has his moods, and he doesn’t have any one best friend because it depends on whom he wants to play with that day.)

However, when there are unfamiliar people around, Buddy tends to clam up or speaks sparingly and softly. It’s a totally different persona! Perhaps he is not born to be an entertainer or politician.

Despite being comfortable with his  teachers and most classmates, Buddy still has a love-hate relationship with the daycare More often than not, he would whine when he notices the uniform on the bed, and cry that he doesn’t want to go to school. Instead he wants me to stay home to play with him. However, once we arrive at the center, he willingly enter his classroom. It’s the same with the Berries Chinese  enrichment class. He will cry on the way there, but is able to settle down for the class. When we ask him after if he had fun, he gave a resounding yes. We are trying to figure out the reason for the different behaviors, but my husband suspects that he needs to be eased or to transition to another environment, like me. (I don’t even realize this!)

Still, most importantly, Buddy is a loving boy; very often he tells us, “I love you, mama/papa!” and gives  us hugs. To us, he will always be our baby!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!

In case you’re wondering, I’m not the one crazy over TMNT. It’s buddy. I figured he found out about them from the kids in daycare, because he watches little TV at home. (Most times, he watches what we do, which are mainly news or documentaries and only occasionally, drama series.) You can say he is deprived because he doesn’t get to watch cartoons, and only found out about them from his friends in daycare. I guess this explains why he doesn’t have interests in any superheroes or even the famous Mickey Mouse.

So, I was quite surprised when, some weeks ago, he started talking  about TMNT and told us he was Leonardo. I didn’t know who that was and had to Google to find out. (Ok, I was deprived as a kid too.) He started to use improvised objects as his swords, like the IKEA train track.

Other swords come in the shapes of paper towel rolls, paper plane, and even dino toys!




Of course, not all the “swords” are safe for him to play. My Husband stopped Buddy from using the train track and this Allosaurus figure as swords since he might poke his eye or someone’s eye with them.

So Buddy went for the “safer” dino models for his swords: Parasaurolophus and Dacentrusus.

For the bandana, Buddy had this blue elephant mask that he made in school, which we then cut it to become a Leonardo bandana for him. The blue inflated dino became the baddie, Shredder.

Buddy wrestling with Shredder.


Shredder died!


Not long after, the paper mask was the first to kaputt and the paper plane got scrounged  up. Then, last weekend, both the paper rolls went into the thrash bins after a fight-off with a friend.

We had tried looking for foam sword at toy stores but there was none available. I finally found one on Toys R Us online store, but Buddy said no when I showed him the picture. My Husband then had the idea of making a paper katana sword for Buddy, like the one used by Leonardo.

Unfortunately the katana cannot withstand much action. My Husband had to stop Buddy from whacking Shredder after the sword looked like it might break apart. Buddy lost interest in it right after that. He needs a proper weapon  in his fights against bad guys! So back to the dino figures.

Luckily, the online Toys R Us  store sells the Leonardo combat gear set.

I told Buddy if he was a good boy and go to school, I would get it for him. Instead he replied, “I have my own swords!” Well, let’s see if he would say that again when I show him the real thing. Though, a couple of days ago, he told us he is now Raphael. My Husband and I groaned.

Anyway, TMNT must be out of favor with many kids here because I can hardly find any of its merchandise. Luckily we have some relatives coming over from the US, and I requested my sis-in-law to get the socks for Buddy. Despite the last minute shopping spree, she didn’t have difficulty finding them. Now, I have to look for pyjamas.

A magical experience for the kiddos (at National Gallery Singapore)

Happy New Year, everyone!

I want to interrupt my cheongsam posts to introduce the Keppel Centre for Art Education located at the National Gallery Singapore. We were there twice this week, the first time was without Buddy. On the first visit, we took the audio guided tour to learn about the history of the two buildings (namely the former Supreme Court and City Hall) which form the newly opened NGS.



The two buildings are now connected, the left side is the City Hall wing and the right is the Supreme Court wing (photo credit of my husband).

I highly recommend the guided tour which provides a lot of interesting information on both buildings. Like I didn’t realise both are actually less than 100 years old. (I had thought they were between 100-150 years old.) I also found out during the tour that there is a time capsule buried under the foundation stone of the former Supreme Court, which is to be taken out in the year 3000!

The second dome of the former Supreme Court which many are not aware of, and entrance to UOB Southeast Asia gallery (photo credit of my husband).

But the main subject of this post is the Keppel Centre for Art Education catered for families and children. We checked it out on the first day and decided that we had to take Buddy there. There are 5 sections where children and adults can indulge in art activities, and I dare say it is the biggest art space set up for children in Singapore. It is a place for a magical experience and imagination.

Outside the center are paintings done by children (of course), and they are pretty good.

Instead of mentioning all the art spaces available, I will highlight those activities that Buddy enjoyed. The first is Project Gallery: explore future homes and cities.

Hanging from the ceiling are two very interesting installations.

Children are encouraged to make flying boats and buses which they can take home. For a donation of S$4, you get a pack of either boat or bus, which comes in two sizes: big and small. Buddy chose the bus. He still couldn’t put everything together, and we had to help him. He took the big bus and my husband took the small one, and together they took them on a flight.

The next location is Art Playscape: discover a magical forest, where Buddy had a lot of fun roaming around. You can see that the place is influenced by Dr Seuss’ stories and Alice in Wonderland.

Buddy called this the “Eye Tree”.


Look, a picnic table under the tree!



A magic  tree with hanging stockings, and a treasure chest at the bottom of it. Look there’s even a tunnel



An underwater cave, which Buddy is afraid to enter because there is a monster in there.


There are little playgrounds within the Artscape, like this cave at the bottom of a huge tree.

Kids have lots of fun peering into the periscope.

The children climb up a steep slope along the side of the tree to discover what is up there, and find…

… a little room that belongs to the little people, or perhaps to some magical animals?

(Photo credit of my husband.)


(Photo credit of my husband.)

After you walk down the steps along the tree, you spot a suited hare on a bike!

Outside the KCAE, there are also two art spaces for kids to enjoy. One is a play with mult-colored  discs.

The other is where kids get to create their own animals to roam about in the magical woods.

You choose the animals on the terminal to customize. Buddy chose a mousedeer.
When the animal is done, you can send it up to the woods shown on the screen. You also have the option to email the drawing to yourself to create the animal in 3D.

I strongly recommend parents take their kids here for an enjoyable and magical experience. I can assure you they will develop a love for the museum.

Naughty little squirrel!

No, I wasn’t pranked by any squirrel, it’s the title of a Chinese book and what I call Buddy when he is naughty “捣蛋小松鼠”. As he gains more self-awareness, he is increasingly pushing the boundaries and becoming more rebellious.

During one meal time:
Me, “Alex, don’t throw food on the floor!”
Buddy (looking at me for my reaction) proceeded to let go of the pasta in his fingers, which promptly fell on the ground.

When it’s time for nap:
Me/husband, “Alex, time for nap!”
Buddy *silent while continues to play with his toys*.
Me/husband, “Alex, if you sleep now, I will give you a star.”
Buddy *still silent and playing*.
Me/husband (trying to be patient like Buddha), “Alex, after your nap, I will give you cake / ice cream.”
Buddy *no reaction*.
Me/husband (trying to not to blow up), “Alex, if you don’t nap, you cannot go Toyland!”
Buddy *ignore*.
Me/husband (in exasperation), “if you don’t nap now, you will sit outside (on the play mat)!!!” (The time-out punishment.)
Buddy *proceeds to cry*.

Then there is the most favored word of children:

Me, “Alex, it’s time for bath.”
Buddy, “No!”
Me, “Alex, after bath, mama will read to you.”
Buddy, “No!”
Me, “Alex, it’s getting late, you have to bathe!
Buddy, “No!”
Me (getting desperate), ” If you bathe, mama will get Toby (train) for you.”
Buddy, “No!”

It’s time like this that I understand why parents in the past resorted to spanking or smacking, and even now some still do so. Not that I condone physical violence on kids, but you really have to have the patience of Jesus Christ or Buddha to deal with a rebellious or whiny kid. No wonder they didn’t bother to have a family. Because if either of them have a young kid who keeps repeating every 2 minutes, “I want to see Godzilla (or whatever was in vogue then)”, even they might turn into the monster.

I know many child experts like to advocate reasoning to children, and not using rewards to make them comply, and instead encourage their intrinsic willingness to do the right thing, blah blah blah. Well, either they have no kids or they are damn lucky to have compliant ones. Because, as far as I am concerned, there are many times I cannot reason with Buddy. And half the times, incentives don’t work, and I have also tried the star reward system (but he doesn’t care very much for it). Many times, only threats get him moving.

Worse, he’s becoming a smart-aleck.
Me, “Alex, it’s time for enrichment. Put side your toys.”
Buddy, “No, I want to play.”
Me, “Alex, you can play after enrichment.”
Buddy, “No, I want to play.”
Me, “Alex, there is a time for play, and a time for enrichment.”
Buddy, “Mama, don’t bully me!”
Me: *speechless*

And recently…

Me, “Alex, do you want use the potty?” (I am trying to toilet train him.)
Buddy, “I am busy!”
(My husband later asked me, “did he tell you make an appointment with his secretary?”)

Sometimes, instead of the silent treatment, we will receive a dinosaur roar from him.
“Alex, don’t be naughty!”
Buddy, “Rawhhh!”

Then there is another form of the silent treatment: turning his back to us. Yes, this naughty boy is rather creative in different ways of protest. And when we lecture or threaten him, he will make himself into a victim, either sobbed like he is wronged, or sniffle with teary eyes looking like Puss in the movie “Shrek”.

Luckily, one thing Buddy doesn’t do is to make a big scene in public by bawling his eyes out or rolling and screaming on the floor. Still, my husband and I know that we have to nip his bad behaviors in the bud. We don’t tolerate the silent treatments or the roaring, and definitely not the defiant no. So, regardless of what the child experts say, we will use the most effective disciplinary means including threats of punishment so that Buddy doesn’t think he can get away doing whatever he wants. And we all know when kids get away with bad behaviors right from the start, it’s going to get worse.

Being dino-mad

I have mentioned in a couple of previous posts that Buddy loves dinosaurs. In fact you can say he’s dino-mad. Half of his closet are shirts with dinosaur prints, and so are half of his pyjamas. He also has dino socks which I managed to find at Mothercare, though out of the five pairs in the pack, only three have dino prints.

For a very long time, he wouldn’t want to wear anything that doesn’t have dino on it. I had to resort to hiding his dino shirts to make him wear something different. Thank goodness he is now more open to wearing non-dino PJs. But for going-out shirts, dinos still rule.

A few days ago, I made a dino hat for him. I bought a bucket hat from Cotton On Kids for only S$2 and ordered dino appliqués from Etsy, which I then ironed on the hat and reinforced with some stitching. Lucky I did that because Buddy tried pealing the appliqués off.

Then there are lots and lots of dino stickers that I bought for him, which ended up with them stuck everywhere in the house and the car. Problem is Buddy doesn’t like to stick them on papers to make a picture. Instead he likes to use them for make-believe play and then stick them anywhere convenient when he is done playing.


Sticker on the couch


Stickers on computer table


Stickers on bathroom counter wall


Stickers on his desk

Naturally there are stickers on the clothes, which I usually only realized after laundry, and even on the floor.

Buddy also loves to play make-believe with his dino figures, like organizing a party for them. He will make a dino strawberry cake for the birthday dino, and invites us to the party, “mama/papa, do you want to come to my party?”


The birthday dino


The dino friends

My father-in-law bought Buddy a big battery-operated Triceratop toy that moves and makes loud sound for his 3rd birthday, but it scares him and so we removed the batteries. Even then Buddy rarely plays with it; it seems Triceratop is not his favored dino.

Buddy didn’t have any fluff toys when he was younger because of his eczema problem. But a few months ago, we got him a fluff T-Rex (as expected his name is “Rex”), and thank God it doesn’t caused any skin irritation so far (though I do wash it regularly). Still, Rex isn’t Buddy’s must-have bedtime companion. Instead it’s his beloved doggie cushion which he has since he was much younger (it’s his lovey).

Of course dino books are a given whenever we go to the library. That’s the first thing he will search for. We always have to borrow a couple of dino books during each trip, not just stories but also information on the dinos.

I’m not sure how long this love affair with dino will last, but I must say my knowledge of dinosaur has grown thanks to Buddy. Previously I only knew of T-Rex, but now I can recognize a lot more of them. Anyway Buddy tends to be rather specific and focused in his interests, and so maybe this particular interest will turn into a deeper passion.